Ayotzinapa: A New Rift with the State

Mágdalena Gómez

There is an undeniable crisis between the President of the Republic and the mothers and fathers of the 43 students who disappeared almost a decade ago. This is the result of the virtual stagnation of the investigation of the Ayotzinapa case caused, in its recent stage, by the Army’s refusal to hand over 800 documents that are key to the clarification of the fate of the 43 students and the punishment of those responsible. Add to that the explosive ingredient of the presidential questioning of the human rights organizations that have accompanied the relatives in the exercise of their legitimate right to defense. In fact, and after a series of conflicts with the Covaj (the Commission for Truth and Justice) and its new head, they have demanded dialogue with the head of the Federal Executive. 

On March 6, the refusal of its personnel in the morning conference to receive a letter from the families reiterating the request for dialogue —and having been in a sit-in for several days in front of the National Palace, without any communication from them— exacerbated tempers. An unidentified group broke one of the access gates with clearly violent methods (ramming the door) that assuredly were not endorsed by the Prodh Center or others. In the face of this crisis, a dialogue was offered without a date and on the condition that the defenders (human rights organizations) would not attend. This was not accepted.

At this point of polarization, on the night of March 7, Yanqui Kothan Gómez Peralta, 23, a student of the Normal de Ayotzinapa, was murdered by police officers of the Guerrero Public Security Secretariat, in circumstances that must be investigated and those responsible must be punished. This crime, although not related to the disappearances of the 43, does affect the heart of the historic school which was just a few hours away from commemorating its 98th anniversary. The event has rightly reactivated the anger against the State, especially among organizations such as the Federation of Socialist Peasant Students of Mexico (Fecsm), which has already defined an agenda of mobilizations to this effect, and has added its support to the case of the 43. On the other hand, this crime has also reactivated the historical racist and classist stigmatization of social sectors against the rural teacher training colleges and especially against Ayotzinapa.

Regarding the facts and circumstances, the initial version of the Secretary of Public Security was that the death of Yanqui Kothan Gómez Peralta, a student of the Ayotzinapa Normal School, was the result of a confrontation. The alleged confrontation took place on the old highway to the municipality of Tixtla because he and two companions were traveling in a van which had a robbery report and did not heed the signal of the state police to stop at a checkpoint. There is no evidence of such a confrontation and the Guerrero Prosecutor’s Office itself considered reviewing the version. 

The family and normalistas have already reported that weapons were planted; the autopsy of the young Kothan was also presented with negative results for toxic and ethyl substances, and gunpowder for alleged handling of weapons. They also pointed out that they did not give his mother his cell phone, nor that of the other student who was arrested and apparently already released. The third one managed to escape. The Attorney General’s Office has already taken over the investigation, which is not a guarantee given its questionable performance. For its part, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) initiated an investigation. 

In the hours following the homicide, students from Ayotzinapa moved to Chilpancingo to protest, including the burning of two state police units. On Saturday, March 9, they detained national guardsmen and released them unharmed, but set fire to their two vehicles. These are signs that they will not sit around and wait for justice to be done. They are well aware that on December 12, 2011, the Ayotzinapa normalistas Jorge Alexis Herrera Pino and Gabriel Echeverría de Jesús, were killed when they were shot by federal and state police and justice is still awaited.

The relatives of the 43 normalistas have already announced their demand for clarification and reiterated their support for the lawyer Vidulfo Rosales, which drew the ire of the President of the Republic when they declared that they would appear to protest at Claudia Sheinbaum’s campaign events and not at those of the opposition. A campaign is already underway to divert the investigation into the crime of the Kothan student, who was very much respected  in the normal school, in the Guadalupan club of Tixtla and in the community of Tixtla, as expressed in the ceremonial accompaniment of his burial in the streets. For those who remember that expression “let’s not wake up the bronco Mexico,” it seems that the crime of March 7 has already awakened the rebellious and combative normalismo that, without a doubt, will be reactivated beyond Ayotzinapa. The commitment that the investigations will be continued by the next government remains. It will be obligatory.

Original text published in La Jornada on March 12, 2024.
Translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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